Public to Choose Winner of 3rd Annual VPI Hambone Award

Nation's Largest Pet Insurer Nominates 12 of Its Most Unusual Insurance Claims

Sep 06, 2011, 09:00 ET from Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.

BREA, Calif., Sept. 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- From the dog that ate more than 100 rocks to the cat that chased a fly onto a hot wood stove, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) has received a host of remarkable medical claims. For the third consecutive year, the nation's oldest and largest provider of pet health insurance will bestow the coveted title of "Most Unusual Claim of the Year" to one of its nearly half a million insured pets. The winner will be determined by the public, who is encouraged to visit Sept. 6-20, 2011, to decide which perilous pet will take home the esteemed VPI Hambone Award.

Named originally after a dog that ate an entire Thanksgiving ham while stuck in a refrigerator, the VPI Hambone Award has since been presented for two equally unusual claims. Past winners include Ellie, a Labrador retriever who gobbled up an entire beehive and its thousands of inhabitants, and Lulu, a hungry bulldog who swallowed 15 baby pacifiers, a bottle cap and piece of a basketball.

Following are brief summaries of the 12 unusual claims nominated for the 2011 Hambone Award. All nominated pets made full recoveries and received insurance reimbursements for eligible treatment expenses. For a more detailed account of each claim, photos of the nominees or to place a vote for the VPI Hambone Award, visit

  • July 2010 – Sadie the golden retriever (St. Petersburg, Fla.). A casual stroll through the neighborhood proved "otter" than most when Sadie was surprised (and bitten) by a feisty river-dweller.
  • August 2010 – Balboa the pug (Metairie, La.). Balboa might save curiosity for the cats after an encounter with a venomous bug left him with corneal ulcers in both eyes.
  • September 2010 – Moose the English mastiff (Green Valley, Ariz.). Moose's already massive head nearly doubled in size after being kicked in the noggin by a defensive mule.
  • October 2010 – Howie the toy poodle (Monroe, N.Y.). This troublesome pup racked up more than 15 visits to the veterinarian before his first birthday. If that seems hard to swallow, try being Howie, for whom one of those trips was to remove an acorn lodged in his windpipe.
  • November 2010 – Tobey the Labrador retriever (Charlotte, N.C.). Some might say that Tobey has a bit of a drinking problem, especially after a play date with the sprinkler sent this waterlogged Lab to the veterinarian.
  • December 2010 – Gus the Labrador retriever (Cottage Grove, Wis.). A little over-eating always happens during the holidays, but five pounds of cookies in one sitting is excessive for any stomach. Gus learned the hard way that devouring one-eighth of your body weight impacts more than just the scale.
  • January 2011Chico the Chihuahua (Crystal Lake, Ill.). This 4-pound Chihuahua found himself caught in the middle when a Great Horned Owl challenged his owner to a game of tug of war using Chico's leash.
  • February 2011 – Teuer the Jack Russell terrier (Mount Pleasant, Mich.). After a failed attempt to dive under a closing garage door, Teuer has given up his dream of becoming a stunt double for Indiana Jones.
  • March 2011– Eddy the domestic shorthair (Belmont, Mass.). A housefly chase turned into a heated pursuit when Eddy leapt in the air and landed on top of a hot wood stove, burning all four paws in the process.
  • April 2011 – Stella Artois the Labrador retriever (Ramsey, N.J.). While a healthy serving of vegetables is generally encouraged, Stella learned there are exceptions to every rule. This pup's dumpster dive for green beans left her with a tin can lodged firmly on her jaw.
  • May 2011 – Harley the dachshund (Ventura, Calif.). Snack time in the sunshine was no picnic for Harley when a stubborn seagull swooped in to steal his meal and wreak havoc.
  • June 2011 – Harley the pug (Manville, R.I.). Harley's eyes may have been bigger than his stomach, but not much bigger than the 100 rocks he ingested while his owner was away.

"Each year, the VPI Hambone Award helps educate pet owners about the importance of preparing for the unexpected," said Dr. Carol McConnell, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for VPI. "It's rare that a dog's overzealous trash digging results in a tin can stuck on her face, or that a dog becomes ill from drinking too much water, but these things do happen. Sometimes, the best we can do as responsible pet parents is be ready for anything."

Note to editors: Digital images of the VPI Hambone Award and 2011 Hambone Award nominees available. Send requests to:

About Veterinary Pet Insurance

With more than 485,000 pets insured nationwide, Veterinary Pet Insurance Co./DVM Insurance Agency is the No. 1 veterinarian-recommended pet health insurance company and is a member of the Nationwide Insurance family of companies. Providing pet owners with peace of mind since 1982, the company is committed to being the trusted choice of America's pet lovers and an advocate of pet health education. VPI Pet Insurance plans cover dogs, cats, birds and exotic pets for multiple medical problems and conditions relating to accidents, illnesses and injuries. Optional Pet CareGuard® for routine care is also available.

Medical plans are available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 2,000 companies nationwide offer VPI Pet Insurance as an employee benefit. Policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company in California and in all other states by National Casualty Company, an A+15 rated company in Madison, Wisconsin. Pet owners can find VPI Pet Insurance on Facebook or follow @VPI on Twitter. For more information about VPI Pet Insurance, call 800-USA-PETS (800-872-7387) or visit

SOURCE Veterinary Pet Insurance Co.